Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Retro Review: Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

The way I see it, one of the great things about being a horror film buff is the joy of discovering older films that never caught on with larger audiences but still serve as impressive examples of horror cinema. My latest discovery is Let's Scare Jessica to Death, a 1971 creeper that was directed by John D. Hancock.

I first noticed this film when I saw it on the shelf at our local video store back in the '80s, but I didn't pay much attention to it because I never heard of it before. Yet as the years went by, I noticed how this title kept popping up in many horror film reviews, books, articles and Web sites, so I finally got around to watching it the other week. Fun trivia fact: Let's Scare Jessica to Death is the film that landed Hancock the job of directing Jaws 2, but he was fired from that sequel due to a disagreement he had with a Universal executive. Stephen King has also mentioned in interviews that this movie is one of his favorite horror films, and you can see its influence in one of his novels from the mid-70s.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death begins with the titular character Jessica (Zohra Lampert) traveling with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and their friend Woody (Kevin O'Connor) to a small town in rural New England. Jessica was recently released from a psychiatric facility, and Duncan purchased an abandoned farm outside of the town as a place for his wife to heal and resume her life. Soon after arriving at her new home, Jessica begins to see and hear strange things around the farm that may be linked to its legendary past. Is Jessica relapsing into insanity, or is someone trying to scare her to death?

To say much more about Let's Scare Jessica to Death is to give away too much. What I can say is that it is very similar to films such as Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil (1973) and Francesco Barilli's The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974) in that it is a moody, dreamlike story about an emotionally fragile woman who is in the thrall of an unknown force that slowly unravels the fabric of her sanity. Like other films of its kind, Let's Scare Jessica to Death takes its time to set up many different details within the narrative--details that don't make much sense at first--all for the purpose of delivering a relentless ending that ties it all together in a matter of minutes and leaves you reeling over what you just saw. The revelation of who the 'us' is that's suggested in the title (i.e., Let's is a contraction for 'let us') was something that I didn't see coming at all as the film reached its concluding scenes.

If you prefer horror films that have oodles of violence, jump scares and gore, Let's Scare Jessica to Death won't hold your interest at all. Yet if you're interested in older horror films that crawl under your skin through ghostly imagery, strange landscapes, disorienting narratives and pervasive dread, you should give this one a try.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Behold the Power of Nostalgia: Bif Bang Pow's Classic Battlestar Galactica Action Figure Line Continues to Grow

Regardless of what you might think about the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, one thing is for sure: This single season, late-70s space opera certainly has a much longer shelf life than anyone ever expected.

Galactica first experienced two brief resurrections in the '90s through comic books published by Maximum Press and Realm Press, resurrections that also produced a few toys. In 2003, a Battlestar Galactica video game was released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles, which featured voice tracks recorded by original cast members Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict. Even now in 2013, after the run of the "re-imagined" version of Galactica, classic Galactica merchandise still appears in fan conventions, comic book shops and online catalogs. Dynamite Entertainment still publishes comic book series that are set in the classic Galactica universe, and Bif Bang Pow! is continuing to produce characters for its 8-inch Mego-styled line of classic Galactica action figures.

Bif Bang Pow! displays the upcoming additions to its line of classic Battlestar Galactica figures at Comic-Con 2013.
(Photo courtesy of Mego Museum.)

Seeing the number of figures that Bif Bang Pow! has produced so far makes my head spin--it's much more than the action figure selection that was produced by Mattel during Galactica's original run. As you can see in the picture above, the classic characters of Athena, Boomer and Tigh are finally getting their own figures--complete with accessories--35 years after the original show's premiere. If there's any evidence that the geek community is alive and well and has oodles of disposable income to spare, this is it. It's also proof that we haven't seen the last of Battlestar Galactica anytime soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ghost Shark Review: Just When You Thought it was Safe to Swim with a Ouija Board

Ripoffs of the classic creature feature Jaws are a dime a dozen, especially if the ripoff in question also has a monster shark similar to the one in Jaws. Usually, these kinds of ripoffs try to distinguish themselves with by putting the monster sharks in an unlikely location (in a lake, in a supermarket, in a research lab, in a tornado, etc.) or giving the sharks some unique attribute or ability (swimming in the snow, swimming in the sand, etc.). Yet for fans of Jaws ripoffs who are looking for something a little different in their derivative entertainment, Active Entertainment has decided to ripoff the least of the Jaws movies, Jaws: The Revenge, with its latest film Ghost Shark. If anything, Ghost Shark proves that if you ripoff the lowest point of a popular franchise, you at least have a decent shot at making watchable (albeit not very memorable) entertainment. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Look at Storm Toys' 1/6th Scale Replica of the T-1 Tank from Terminator 3

Due to personal and professional circumstances beyond my control, I haven't been able to blog as much as I would like to as of late. Nevertheless, someone just told me a bit of Terminator news that I absolutely had to share: Storm Toys is releasing a highly-detailed, limited edition 1/6th scale replica of the T-1 tank from Terminator 3. Read on for more details and additional pictures of this stunning collectible from the Terminator universe. (Photos courtesy of Storm Toys.)